Gene McDaniels is an artist who saw success during the years between the rise of Elvis Presley, and the rise of the Beatles. Many people think that popular music was in the doldrums before the Beatles came along, but the fact is that some of the most amazing singles in pop music history were released in the early ’60s. Among those great records were two enormous hits by Gene McDaniels in 1961.
Gene McDaniels was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1935, and grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He had six Top 40 hits in his career, but not many artists have had a better year than McDaniels did in 1961. He released two singles that hit the top five on the pop charts. “Tower of Strength” made it to #5, while “100 Pounds of Clay” (video below) reached #3, and sold over one million copies.
Despite all the hits, McDaniels is perhaps best remembered for a cover version of one of his songs. Inspired by the burgeoning black consciousness movement of the late ’60s, McDaniels wrote a song called “Compared To What” that became a soul jazz classic when it was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1969 by Les McCann and Eddie Harris (video below).